The Rescuers

Monday, November 2, 2009


The Rescuers
Margery Sharp, 1959

I reread the first four books in this series, though I'll mainly talk about the first one (The Rescuers itself) here.

They are adorable.  Garth Williams' illustrations in my edition only make them even more adorable.

I love Margery Sharp's writing.  She has a way with gently ironic turns of phrase, or bits of description which completely capture the whimsy of her world of mice. 
pg 6- “There is nothing like breeding to give one confidence: [Madam Chairwoman] was descended in direct line from the senior of the Three Blind Mice.”
It's interesting to me that it was clearly not intended to be a series when the first one was written.   The Rescuers sums up each character's probable future at the end.  There is no explanation at the top of book two as to why they're all back together.  Also between books one and two the relationship between Bernard and Bianca changes from open flirtation with the strong possibility of something more to a standard friendship with undercurrents of unresolvable romantic interest.

Sharp is gently mocking both of aristocrats like Bianca and the humans around her, as well as middle and lower class characters, both among humans and mice. 
pg 27- “The singing and shouting almost deafened her ears, there wasn't a moment of repose. (Miss Bianca had frequently assisted, from the Boy's pocket, at diplomatic soirees.  There, always, a moment of repose; in fact, sometimes the moments ran into each other and made hours of repose.)”
I love Miss Bianca; while early on subject to fainting, she spends the first book quickly and consciously shedding prejudices and preconceptions to struggle alongside her new friends.  She's never very physically strong - always feminine and delicate - but uses her charm, cleverness, diplomacy and knowledge to great effect, even against cats. 
pg 99 - “always, at the last moment, by some exquisite trick or clever piece of flattery, she held Mamelouk's paw suspended – and then skimmed like a hummingbird to safety.
4 Stars - A Really Good Book


Anthropomorphic Society Rundown:

Overall: Separate/parallel animal society
The mouse society exists alongside humans, without their knowledge.  They do parody/pick up some human conventions.

Size: Real size
The mice are mouse-sized, and the other animals they encounter likewise are their actual size.

Law and Order:  Ignore Human Law
The mice have their own regulations governing their behavior, but openly flout human law.  In The Rescuers, there is exactly zero thought given to why the prisoner in question (a Norwegian poet) is in prison when they decide to get him out.  All jailers/guards are described as immoral, usually gluttonous and cruel.

Own language: Yes, but mutilingual
Mice have their own language and speak the local human language.  In the Rescuers, they recruit a Norwegian mouse to translate for the Norwegian prisoner.  They sometimes speak to other animals as well, primarily Bianca, who over the four books, negotiates/talks with a cat, two bloodhounds, a bunch of doves, a racehorse, and a colony of bats.  Being educated, she speaks, “with a much better accent than most... in a foreign tongue.” 
It seems to be uncommon to talk to humans, Bianca doesn't speak to the Boy who looks after her, but they do speak to those they rescue, and expect them to be surprised that mice can talk.

Own religion: None Stated
Although the Prisoner's Aid Society is a charitable organization.

Other Notes:
The amount of clothing/accessories they wear seems to change as needed by the plot.  They don't seem to wear clothing as a matter of course.  Most clothing described is accessories, for example boots for rain, a coat for cold, hats, jewelry, suitcases/bags, military-style honors.  (Side note, the Tybalt Star is awarded for gallantry in the face of cats.)

Level of Anthropomorphism: Middling
The mice have a fairly human-like society, including mouse-sized furniture and buildings, (the meeting hall for the Society is made of an empty wine cask).  They still eat like mice, food made of bits found here and there, and are aware of their danger around most humans and large animals.  Do have a human like sense of class, although the only aristocratic mouse described is Bianca, and she is exceptional because she is a pet mouse.


Next week: more mice, and rats as well!

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